splash  What did critics think of The American Venus (1926)? Opinion was divided. Some thought it harmless fun, though one critic called it a “glittering piece of dramatic trash.” Here is a survey, in the form of a number of quotes, from some of the American newspapers and magazines of the time.


“The tricks of the magician, who produces an amazing array of gowns worn by picked mannequins, employs the motion picture technique at what it can do most skillfully. Esther Ralston and Fay Lanphier are the feminine talent, also Edna Oliver and Louise Brooks.” — Carl Sandburg, Chicago Daily New

“The primest bit of box-office bait ever cast into the sea of commercialism. . . . The American Venus is to cinematographic art what the tabloid newspaper is to journalism. It is designed to appeal to those charming people who fill out the coupons and enclose their dollars for ‘Twelve Beautiful Photographic Studies of Parisian Models in Nature’s Garb’. Not that it is the least bit immoral. On the contrary, it is flamingly virtuous and teeming with the highest principles of 100 per cent American go-gettery.” — Robert E. Sherwood, Life

The American Venus is unmitigated ballyhoo, press agent’s puffery of the least mistakable sort, a kind of bench-made boob-catcher, dedicated to the reader of tabloid dailies and festooned with symbolic dollar signs. And this despite the fact that numerous first-rate talents combined to produce it.” — D. W. B., Boston Evening Transcript

“Fay Lanphier becomes ‘Miss America.’ This modern deMilo is a pleasant girl who is pretty but doesn’t act that way. A recruit from the musical comedy stage, Louise Brooks, who plays a runner-up, is pert, pretty and promising.” — Delight Evans, New York Morning Telegraph

“Louise Brooks plays Miss Bayport, and she furnishes a great deal of perfectly legitimate comedy by inadvertently being caught in the apartment of Hugo Niles and his wife, who arrives unexpectedly.” — Harriette Underhill, New York Herald Tribune

“A newcomer in Louise Brooks makes her screen debut. Louise plays a hard-hearted gold-digger type realistically.” — Dorothy Herzog, New York Daily Mirror

“A glittering piece of dramatic trash, as cheap a thing and still as expensive looking as anything I have seen from the Paramount studio. . . . It presents a raw and effortful desire to photograph scantily attired women without any sensible or appreciable tendency to tell a reasonably alive or plausible story. Any nervous high school boy might have done the plot and there isn’t a director in captivity who could not have told the cameraman when and where and how to shoot. . . . I do believe that Louise Brooks, who appears as Miss Bayport, is better looking than any of the other brunettes now acting in films.” — Quinn Martin, New York World

“Famous Players-Lasky tied up with the recent beauty contest, and the result is a bewildering succession of events that range from artistic tableaux to a Keystone comedy chase. . . . It’s good entertainment, and the bevy of bathing beauties includes Louise Brooks, who has a distinct screen personality.” — Rose Pelswick, New York Evening Journal

“Watch Louise Brooks, a new face. That gal’s there.” — Photoplay

“I resent The American Venus because it is essentially cheap and tawdry, being built obviously upon the idea, already a success at Atlantic City, of exploiting gals in brief bathing attire. Like everyone else, I like pulchritude, but I hate to see it retailed in circus and chautauqua fashion. . . . The much-exploited Broadway chorus beauty, Louise Brooks, is in the piece. She has a provocative face, but she hasn’t learned yet how to make her knees behave.” — Frederick James Smith, Motion Picture Classic

“The scantiness of the girl’s attire, though by no means vulgar, will undoubtedly offend the bigoted.” — Peggy Goldberg, Exhibitors Trade Review

“Louise Brooks, the former Follies chorine, makes her film debut in the production and does well in a small role. This Miss Brooks just now is the patron saint of all chorus girls seeking admittance into the sacred ranks of screen players.” — Charles J. Richardson, Detroit Times

“Others in the cast are Kenneth MacKenna, Edna May Oliver and Louise Brooks, the latter a black-haired boyish-bobbed entry who cuts quite a figure in the parade.” — Harold Heffernan, Detroit News

“Then, as though that were not beauty enough for one picture, the director offers also Miss Louise Brooks, and many ‘shots’ taken at Atlantic City.” — Kansas City Times

The American Venus is frankly manufactured to take advantage of the Atlantic City beauty pageant publicity. It does not pretend to be art, its purpose is frankly the glorification of the American girl. The result of the film’s naivete is that it is fairly good entertainment.” – K. T. K., New Orleans Picayune